Motion is Not Just a Mode on Your Camera

Photographer/Filmmaker Gail Mooney on motion:

The convergence of still imagery and video continues at a rapid pace. Technology has transformed how we create, sell and consume visual content.  The distribution of imagery is digital, global and instantaneous.  What’s driving this?

  1. Still photographers are using cameras capable of shooting video and are creating content in both mediums.  Often their assignments require it.
  2. There is a demand for multimedia (stills, video and motion graphics) as we communicate more on electronic platforms and less in print.
  3. Video and still photography are not separate markets.  In fact they aren’t markets at all. They are mediums that are used in just about every market.

As a hybrid (I’ve been a still photographer for 35 years and have been shooting both stills and video for 15 of those years) I have a good understanding of the craft and the business of still photography and motion.  Here are some tips and insights from a hybrid’s perspective:

  • Still photographers, generally hold copyright to their work. Their business model is based on the licensing of their images or at least in commercial photography. Camera operators  work in a collaborative effort and their business model is quite different. They work under work-for-hire agreements and hand off the rights to their footage.  But what about the still images that can be “grabbed” from the frames of that footage?  If you’re a photographer/camera operator, I suggest putting a clause in your agreements that states:  “no rights or permissions granted for still images – also known as frame grabs”. As a buyer of motion content, don’t assume when you buy motion footage, that you have the “rights” to use frame grabs from the footage, as still images.
  • If you are using “talent” and intend to shoot both stills and video – make sure your “talent releases” state that talent grants you permission to use imagery you produce of them in and for both mediums.  Many times, talent is affiliated with SAG (The Screen Actor’s Guild).  While SAG rules don’t apply to still shoots – they definitely apply when you switch to a “motion” mode and shoot video. If I know I will be working with talent and will be shooting both stills and motion, I will hire a casting agent who is a signatory and will not only take care of the casting but the bookkeeping as well, as mandated by SAG.
  • Choose the right camera for the job.  A DSLR doesn’t always cut it, depending on the job. Buyers should think about their end use. If you will be using a lot of stock footage on a project, think about how combining different formats from different cameras will work together – or not.
  • Don’t shoot motion like a still photographer.  Motion has its own cinematic language.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that you move the camera. If you do move the camera, have a reason.  Your moves should be “motivated” and make a visual statement. Let the motion happen in front of the camera.  For example: someone walking into or out of a frame.
  • Still images are “moments in time”. They linger in your mind. Video is “time in motion”. It emotes through movement, sequences, sound and music.
  • Shoot video clips as sequences – with a beginning, middle and an end.  Buyers love having a variety of clips of the same subject that are shot from different angles or focal lengths.  If they are looking for clips that they can sequence together, your footage will be more valuable. Think about continuity when shooting video sequences. Look carefully at the details.
  • Capture ambient sound. It’s preferable to capture audio separately from the video, especially if you are shooting with a DSLR. Use a small digital audio recorder and get the microphone close to the sound.
  • If you are a still photographer and plan to expand into video production, remember, video is a collaborative medium.  Don’t try and do it all. Position yourself as a producer and/or Director or DP and outsource the other roles. You can take control of the project, without having to execute all roles of the production.
  • Make sure your business insurance covers video production. Don’t find out the hard way, if you have to put in a claim, that you aren’t covered under your existing policy.

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  • Lisa says:

    Great information! I have worked in the industry for over 20 years, we have to embrace the change – no matter how hard it may be.